In Week 8, when the 49ers were preparing to travel to Arizona for the Monday night game that week, our normal Friday gathering on The Sports Edge (2-3 p.m. on 590 the Fan KFNS) was discussing the weekly H-Bomb.
There was a consensus among co-host Jeff Vernetti and George Weber of Weber Chevrolet, who participates each week in the fun, that Arizona would be able to cover the 7-point spread. To be “H-Bomb eligible,” games have to feature a favorite of 6.5 points or more.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have been awful in my H-Bomb picks this season. Be that as it may, I was surprised they both liked Arizona because I frankly didn’t see how the Cardinals would be able to score enough points to be close. As it turned out, San Francisco won easily, 24-3, and the game was in Arizona.
I bring this up because the Rams will play their first of two games against the 49ers in San Francisco on Sunday, and it’s difficult to envision how the Rams will score points on a team that has allowed just 103 in eight games and in their wins over Seattle and Arizona have allowed a total of nine points.
Unless the Rams hit a bunch of big plays, or the defense scores points like the Chicago Bears, they simply shouldn’t be able to budge that scoreboard very often.
When offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was asked Thursday if he talks to the players about how difficult it will be to face a defense like the 49ers, he said, "Sure. You, obviously, point out the stats. You show them the stats - they're No. 2 in the league in third down, they're No. 1 in points scored. We're not going to lie to our guys. Are they beatable? Sure, they're beatable. But, we're going to have to play very, very well as a team.
"Again, we're up front with them. There's no secrets when you watch the film because the film jumps off how physical they are. They do a great job. Again, we know what we're getting ready for."
Said quarterback Sam Bradford on Wednesday, "There's no doubt that they're good. 'Schotty' told us this morning that they're top five in almost every major category on defense, and it shows up on the film. I think the biggest thing for us, though, is not to beat ourselves. Looking at some film last week during the bye, I think one of our biggest problems is shooting ourselves in the foot, killing ourselves with mental mistakes and things that we can control. Instead of getting focused on them, it's going to be big for us just to play our game and not kill ourselves this week."
Of course, the reality is that teams as physical and talented as the 49ers often force those mistakes. They returned all 11 starters this season, and for the second consecutive season, injuries have not been a factor.
"It's a credit to that team, that organization," Schottenheimer said. "Obviously, they drafted really, really well. They've developed guys really, really well. They play hard. They play physical. They've been fortunate to, obviously, stay healthy. You can see in their play that they have a great feel for one another, what they're doing.
"Again, I think, that's where everybody in the league's trying to get to, where you have a group, a nucleus of guys that play together for a long time. They're obviously playing at a high level and it'll be a great challenge. Again, playing them there on the road will add some difficulty to it."
Bradford said a game like this can show a team very quickly where they are in their development. He said, "I think everyone on our offense is excited for the challenge. Any time you get to play a defense like this, it really kind of allows yourself to see where you're at. We know that we need a great week of preparation if we're going to go out and succeed on Sunday. I think everyone's excited about the opportunity that we have to go and play one of the best defenses on Sunday."
By the end of the day, that excitement might not be there anymore. Hopefully, with the team getting healthier coming back from the bye, there won’t be a reversal of that fortune by the time the game is over.